Tuesday, December 11, 2018

My 40 Favorite Albums of 2018: Not Black Metal or Doom Metal Edition


You read, reread, and memorized my year-end doom metal top 10. You sat, spellbound, as I listed off my 40 favorite black metal records of the year. And now, I give you the best of the rest. Electronic, death metal, neoclassical, punk, experimental, basic-bish indie rock — all that shit. As always with these lists of mine, no download links 'cause it'd get this place shut down faster than you can say "You can probably find every single one of these on Spotify."




40.
Lawrence
Illusion

Lawrence (aka Dial label-head Peter Kersten) continues to make ambient tech-house in more-or-less the same fashion as he did in the early aughts — minimal, slightly warped, and heavenly.

Previously:




39.
E L U C I D
Shit Don't Rhyme No More

NYC rapper with a laid-back but off-kilter flow and experimental, noise-addled, but soulful production. I generally prefer rap that just goes super-hard over the artsy stuff — I’ll take DMX over Antipop Consortium every time — but with so many artists coming off as painfully forgettable imitations of Future and Migos, I’ve found my interest drifting back towards the fringes.




38.
Donny McCaslin
Blow.

Jazz-heavy art rock from saxophonist and bandleader of the group of musicians who helped to make David Bowie’s Blackstar such a brilliant swansong. It’s definitely not his first solo album, but it has the feel of a debut, as its song-based, vocal-heavy approach — surely an after-effect of his work with Bowie — stands in sharp contrast to the comparatively traditional jazz records that he's put out over the years.




37.
Ripped to Shreds
埋葬

Ass-annihilating solo US death metal. OSDM-worship with doom undertones and gnarly production.




36.
Wata Igarashi
Niskala

A cosmic trip through arpeggiating synths, pulsing beats, and colorful, hypnotic atmospheres. Only an EP, but I love it too much not to include it.




35.
Less Bells
Solifuge

Ethereal neoclassical from what sounds like a small chamber orchestra led by American violinist Julie Carpenter. Though the instrumentation is largely the same from song-to-song — stately violins, gauzy synths, and wordless choirs — there’s an impressive amount of emotional ground covered, from angelic ambience that would sound appropriate emanating from the gates of heaven, to dramatic, mournful peaks that you might hear playing as a camera pans over a massive battlefield covered in corpses.




34.
Vessel
Queen of Golden Dogs

A mind-melting collision of harsh electronics and chamber/classical music. Red-lining beats and various forms of digital trash intermingled with ethereal choirs, harpsichord, and dissonant string arrangements. The effect is jarring but immensely satisfying.




33.
City Hunter
Deep Blood

Blown-out, ripping, murder-happy hardcore with spooky synth interludes. Don’t gimme that “I’m sick of raw punk” line, 'cause City Hunter musically and aesthetically massacres 99% of their peers.




32.
Dead Can Dance
Dionysus

Dipping deeper and deeper into their seemingly boundless set of influences, Dead Can Dance have more-or-less completely abandoned the idea of being a rock band, and created an awe-inspiring synthesis of countless musical traditions from around the globe.




31.
Arp
Zebra

A shimmering, playful combination of electronic and organic elements. At first resembles something like modern-day krautrock, but gets looser and looser until it’s full-on space-age jazz.




30.
Ilyas Ahmed
Closer to Stranger

Cloudy, psychedelic folk rock. His sound’s a bit less abstract than it once was, but the stoned haze and phenomenal songwriting remains.

Previously:




29.
Undersave
Sadistic Iterations... Tales of Mental Rearrangement

Combines the angular guitar work of Morbid Angel with the lysergic aesthetic of Incantation. Honestly, after a number of listens, I still haven’t quite wrapped my head around this one. It’s not like they’re doing anything particularly groundbreaking — they’re essentially moving around the parts of classic OSDM to create something more modern — but it doesn't sound quite like anything else I've heard.




28.
GosT
Possessor

The best album yet from the best synthwave project currently in operation. Harsh and terrifying, with moments that are much more akin to metal than to anything John Carpenter ever recorded.




27.
Conway
Everybody Is F.O.O.D.

Creepy, borderline horrorcore NY hip-hop. Falls into the same nihilistic lineage as Mobb Deep, but feels more like an evolution of the sound than a throwback.

Previously:




26.
Lisa Gerrard & David Kuckhermann
Hiraeth

Another phenomenal solo record from the otherworldly Lisa Gerrard. Essentially sounds like a stripped-down version of the Dead Can Dance record above — here, though, her chill-inducing voice is front-and-center.

Previously:




25.
Marissa Nadler
For My Crimes

Dark, haunting, ethereal folk from an artist who’s spent the past decade-and-a-half perfecting and expanding the style. For My Crimes is a breakup album at heart, but it sounds and feels more like a collection of murder ballads.




24.
Nahja Mora
As Death

An imposing, meticulously constructed electro-industrial behemoth that finds Nahja Mora somehow entering even denser, more cacophonous sonic territory. Since this is the second time I'm posting about them, in the interest of full disclosure, I should maybe mention that I’ve known one of the dudes in this band since way back when, but 1) we were never that close and 2) I have hella friends in bands, and do you see their albums on here? Nope. Thank u, next.

Previously:




23.
Kamaal Williams
The Return

Explorative, smooth-as-butter, boogie-flavored jazz-funk straight out of the golden age thereof.




22.
Emma Ruth Rundle
On Dark Horses

Powerful — at times wrenchingly so — song-driven, atmospheric rock. Crystalline guitars give way to overdriven windstorms, with Rundle's haunted voice and cryptic, fantastical musings at their cores.




21.
Rival Consoles
Persona

Colorful, dreamy, synth-driven sounds rooted in techno and deep house, but with ethereal touches and an enveloping atmosphere that takes it far away from the dance floor and into a pair of headphones in a smoke-filled living room.




20.
Conner Youngblood
Cheyenne

Wistful, ornate, R&B-infused indie folk rock. Occupies a similar sonic landscape as the immensely popular self-titled Bon Iver record, but it's smoother, brighter, and has more of a groove. And "Lemonade" might be my favorite song of the year.




19.
Andrew W.K.
You're Not Alone

An expansive musical journey through all of Andrew W.K.’s favorite sonic touchstones — from Genesis to the Ramones to Meatloaf to the Beach Boys — and topped with his most starry-eyed, life-affirming lyrics and ambitious arrangements yet. I personally have never needed Andrew W.K. on the level that I did this year, so the fact that You’re Not Alone just so happened to be truly great was really just a bonus.

Previously:




18.
Scorched
Ecliptic Butchery

Hands-down, my favorite death metal record of the year. Old-school brutality, doom-y breakdowns, and tinges of horror and the paranormal. Apparently, I'm not looking for a whole lot of innovation from my death metal.




17.
Anenon
Tongue

Breathtaking ambient composed of synth, piano, sax, and field recordings. Remarkable sonic cohesion throughout makes the whole thing play like a patient, extended suite.




16.
Heads.
Collider

Droning, queasily melodic noise rock. Heavy-yet-barely-distorted guitars, understated vocals that at times take on a murmuring, shoegaze-like quality, and a hypnotic, plodding rhythmic consistency that brings to mind the great Lungfish.




15.
The Caretaker
Everywhere at the End of Time - Stage 4

Leyland Kirby has an extensive discography based around exploring how the past — both forgotten and remembered — intrudes on the present. While it often comes across as a series of memories-as-musical-vignettes, here it sounds like a panic-ridden onslaught of half-formed memories, coming too fast and too blurry to be interpreted as anything but an overwhelming whole.

Previously:




14.
Arctic Monkeys
Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino

Never got into this band until they brought this weird-ass thing to life. An indie-lounge-glam concept album about life on a luxury resort on the moon. And what’s remarkable isn’t the concept, but that they manage to make an album that's built on such an inscrutable conceit feel so relevant to life here on earth in 2018.




13.
R+R=NOW
Collagically Speaking

Laid-back, R&B and hip-hop-flavored jazz from a ridiculously talented six-piece band assembled by keyboardist Robert Glasper. Synth and vocoder play major roles, which pretty much means that I’m automatically sold.




12.
Brigid Mae Power
The Two Worlds

A breakup album of the highest order. Clever, heartbreaking folk rock with touches of slowcore and jazz-folk á la Van Morrison. I must have listened to this record 25 times this year.




11.
Pusha T
Daytona

Seven tracks, seven absolute bangers. Push T has slid quite smoothly into the role of hard-as-fuck elder statesman, and Kanye “I Can Still Make Good Beats” West crushes it on production. Would have made the top 10 but for the inclusion of an ill-advised guest verse about wearing a MAGA hat from Kanye “I’ve Completely Lost My Mind” West.




10.
Father John Misty
God's Favorite Customer

Father John Misty may be a ham, and seemingly a bit of a prick, but he's also one of the most gifted songwriters currently alive. And with God's Favorite Customer, he's arrived at a rarely-found cross-section of ELO-level tunefulness and Randy Newman-level wit. The two most upbeat tracks ("Mr. Tillman" and "Date Night") both actually made me laugh out loud, while a number of the other songs got me a little verklempt.




9.
Autechre
NTS Sessions 1-4

Eight. Mother. Fucking. Hours. Of. Autechre. Came out back in April and I'm still excited that it even exists.




8.
Steve Tibbetts
Life Of

On his first record in almost a decade, Tibbetts continues with the beautiful, subtle abstractions that we heard on 2010's Natural Causes. Fragmented, texturally rich vignettes for acoustic and electric guitar, piano, and, of course, the tastefully sparse accompaniment of his inseparable percussionist/collaborator/right-hand-man, Marc Anderson.

Previously:
Steve Tibbetts - Steve Tibbets (1977) + Yr (1980)
Steve Tibbetts - The Fall of Us All (1994)
Steve Tibbetts & Knut Hamre - Å (1999)




7.
Beach House
7

Another dream pop tour-de-force from Beach House. Surprise, surprise. They're such a shockingly consistent band that it's almost to their detriment — it's so expected that 7 would be amazing, a lot of you didn't seem to notice that it might actually be their best album. (Note: I swear that I didn't intentionally put this at #7 to be cute, but I like that it happened. It stays.)




6.
Kelly Moran
Ultraviolet

Awe-inspiring experimental abstractions made entirely of prepared piano and synthesizer. Chiming, bell-like notes ring out in flurries against waves of rich, sumptuous chords. One of those hard-to-come-by records that actually feel mentally and physically rejuvenating to listen to.




5.
Nine Inch Nails
Bad Witch

Not sure if y’all have noticed or cared, but Trent Reznor has been in fine form these past few years. Bad Witch is the final installment of an artistically reinvigorating trilogy that he kicked off in 2016, and contains some of the best work Reznor’s done since The Fragile. Catchy, chaotic anthems, paranoid instrumentals, and a pair of songs ("God Break Down the Door" and "Over and Out") that sound like nothing else in the NIN discography, and find Reznor adopting a wavering, intentionally Bowie-esque croon.




4.
Tor Lundvall
A Dark Place

Listening to A Dark Place truly feels like entering another world. It’s a simple enough formula — gentle, pulsing beats, lush, nocturnal synths and drones, and whispery, reverberating vocals — but the effect is so dream-like and completely immersive, you'd be forgiven if you didn't notice that the songs themselves are utterly beautiful and heartbreaking.




3.
Mount Eerie
Now Only

Now Only is a continuation of the work that Phil Elverum began with A Crow Looked at Me: a brutally direct chronicle of his life in the aftermath of his wife Geneviève's death from cancer. His songs find despair and hope in the most minute of details, in a way that's simultaneously plainspoken and poetic. All in all, these two albums amount to arguably the most profound and true-to-life exploration of grief that's ever been committed to tape. If the criteria for this list was 'which album made me cry the most,' this would be at #1 by a wide margin.

Previously:
Mount Eerie - Pts. 6 & 7 (2007)




2.
Oneohtrix Point Never
Age Of

A mind-melting fusion of numerous musical styles and ideas, including cosmic new age, chamber music, glitchy electronics, and auto-tuned pop. Along with its theatrical companion piece MYRIAD, Age Of explores a dystopian vision of humanity's absurd history and an AI-fueled, terminally overpopulated future. I should note, though, that I didn't need to know about any of these weighty concepts to have my goddamn head blown off the first time I heard it.




1.
Low
Double Negative

"It's not the end, it's just the end of hope."

In which Low, with the help of producer B.J. Burton, completely reimagine their sound and land in fascinating, uncharted territory. Could be likened to their Kid A, but that doesn’t really tell the story. There are certainly Low songs in there somewhere — elegant, elegiac, and deeply sorrowful — but they’ve been torn apart, obfuscated, buried, exhumed, and shot through with shards of harsh noise, static, and all other types of glitchy sonics. As anxious and angry as they’ve ever sounded, and one of the best records they've ever made.

Previously:
Low - The Curtain Hits the Cast (1996)
Low - Songs for a Dead Pilot (1997)
Low - Murderer EP (2003)

37 comments:

  1. Plenty to ponder about in here. Thank you.

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  2. Curious about how you hear about some of the more obscure releases especially in the Bm list. Is it mainly just word of mouth?

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    1. Gonna sound like a cop-out but: I find new stuff from a bunch of different places. For one, working at a record store means that a lot of great (and not-so-great) new music just finds its way to me. And I follow hella artists and labels on social media. Outside of that, friends and bandmates, nerdy online music groups and forums, blogs and review sites, going down k-holes on Discogs and Youtube etc. At least one of these (the Heads. record) I heard playing overhead at a bar and asked the bartender about it. So, I guess the short answer is, I live my life in a perpetual state of nerding out about music.

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    2. Mate, what I find impressive is your knowledge about the artists, not just the amount of music you put up on here.
      I mean, you always seem to delve into the artists and their background when you write them up, and even if it's something you've only just heard, you sound like you've been listening to them for 20 years or so.
      I wish I had more time to do homework on half of the artists I listen to. Thank you as always for your time, not just your musical tastes, or risking your balls of getting shut down by the man!

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  3. Amazing, thanks for all your efforts. Plenty I have to dig into with all of your 2018 lists, only halfway through the black metal one and I'm already blown away.

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  4. That City Hunter record is so fucking rad

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  5. This is the list I have been waiting for - Cheers!!

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  6. WHERE THE FUCK ARE THE LINKS?! YOU FASCIST!!!

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  7. Replies
    1. I'm sure we have plenty in the budget section if you wanna have a look

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    2. Look in your crawlspace? Think I'll pass. Uh ... thanks.

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  8. holy shit, a new Tor Lundvall album - I didn't realise he had anything new out.
    Thank you so much for your efforts to spread the word, as always.
    I was surprised there was less ECM albums on your list. I know you're a fan.

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    1. Tbh I'm not as good at keeping up with their current releases as I am other labels, I should prob work on that

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  9. Frequently spot on (meaning your taste apparently accords with mine - Father John Misty and Low in particular. I'm eager to check some of the others out.

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  10. No good thrash or grindcore this year?

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    1. I'm sure there was, but I don't really stay up on new thrash or grind. I remember liking the Languish album, but never returned to it so apparently I didn't feel too strongly about it

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  11. Thanks for the hard work. Your word on the Tor Lundvall and Steve Tibbetts is enough to sell me.

    Despite being a die-hard synth nerd, and tolerant of all manner of nonsense, I've never quite clicked with Oneohtrix. Now I'm thinking I need to give it another shot.

    I'll be spending my holidays in Oregon, so much happy fun to you.

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    1. Late reply but: I've enjoyed other OPN records but this is the first one that's really blown me away, so maybe it'll work for you, too?

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  12. Tor Lundvall, yes. Great stuff. And that Low album sets the bar from now on. Lots of other stuff I haven't heard to track down. Thanks.

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  13. Bless you man for all the music and the beautiful write-ups. My younger sister suffered a major post-partum depression episode in October and she's been struggling hard. One of the very few things that struck a chord with her and helped her keep her head above water is what you wrote when your mate died. I'll just paste it here for those who haven't seen it:

    "The world's a pretty shitty place, to be sure. But never forget that there are some really, truly good people right there in the shite with you, and the only way to avoid getting sucked down is to recognize them, listen to them, hold them close, and cherish them like the priceless treasures they are"

    --PC

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    1. Made me tear up a little to know that that touched someone out there, thank you

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  14. Nice list! I'm curious: did you get around to the new Sly and Robbie album, Nordub? It's this interesting mix of ECM-style ambience and dub rhythms, it blew me away

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    1. I didn't even hear about it, sounds right up my alley, though. Will check it out, thanks!

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  15. Thanks for all your work. Some of these I've heard, others I'm intrigued by. Def check the Sly and Robbie recommended above, and Shinya Fukumori had a great ECM record this year. Surprised to see the Autechre turning up on so many year-end lists, I mean I love it but if figured that's because I'm not in my right mind. Been loving that Ancestors from the doom list, thanks again.

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    1. I didn't realize Autechre has been turning up on lists, but you're right, that is very surprising. Talk about an impenetrable record

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  16. Could you upload Less Bells - Solifuge ? :)

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    1. https://mega.nz/#!UOZTnYIS!-eNuHy4cbEl0i0KMeRT6HjH8Euct0pWe6cNqR37iENI

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    2. Thanks :) I also would like to check Kelly Moran Ultraviolet :D

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    3. and Father John Misty God's Favorite Customer

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  17. Reoccurring annual though:
    You’ve outdone yourself, Tim.
    First thoughts, I’m always stoked to see albums I’ve been grooving on getting mentions on your year end lists. I can always count on the DM/BM lists to add a solid amount to my core library, but the hidden gems on this list always end up being the most appreciated surprises.
    So glad that Emma Ruth Rundle and Marissa Nadler made the list, they’ve been worthy replacements ever since Chelsea Wolfe took a heavier turn and left songs like “Moses” behind. Trent Reznor has indeed been his consistent, abrasive and talented self with the trilogies conclusion. (And did you catch that Twin Peaks episode?) Andrew WK and GosT were also appreciated, glad to see they got some spins from you.
    And thank you for introducing me to R+R=NOW, Kelly Moran, Connor Youngblood, Conway and Wata Igarashi, I love getting absolutely blown away by music I wouldn’t ever end up discovering if left to my own devices.
    Out of curiosity, did you happen to hear some of the new works from Kenny Segal, Jansport J, J.I.D, Holy Fawn, Protector 101, or Odd Beholder? All were fairly excellent if you end up getting the chance to check them out.
    And I have to make the last suggestion because it involves typing a sentence I would have never expected to be true:
    One of Sam Ray’s (Ricky Eat Acid) other projects, American Pleasure Club, released a doom metal song that’s actually pretty fucking good.
    ThNk you again for the lists, man. Music is the most important part of my life and you’ve been the source for me for years, can’t tell you how much I appreciate that.
    Positive vibes, all the best.

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    1. That Twin Peaks episode was where the new NIN really clicked, incredible song, and a completely mindblowing episode, of course. Of those you mentioned, I've only heard the Protector 101, so much to check out, thanks!

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  18. Quality list, of course!! I'm excited as around 1/3 of the releases here I haven't heard yet. LOVE the substantial Autechre NTS sessions, I have the 4 volumes but just as 320 mp3s - I MUST buy the boxed set! Have been obsessed with Autechre since their inception, I don't think there's a single track I don't own.

    Also can't wait to hear the latest Tor Lundvall. -the album art reminds me (somewhat) of the cover of "Captain Of None" by the wonderful Colleen aka Cécile Schott. I dunno maybe it's just me.

    Have you heard Yves Tumor's Warp release "Safe In the Hands Of Love"? It's been growing on me. A nice auditory stew w a bit of R&B, ambient washes, lovely electronic sounds that one can't quite put their finger on, a pinch of alt rock.... and so on

    Same for Tim Hecker's "Konoyo" (in that it's growing on me...quickly), which I was quite stoked when I learned that he collaborated with an ensemble that performs Gagaku, the ancient court music of Japan - I've been obsessed w Gagaku for years. The results are wondrous I think; processed and melancholy, dreamy yet w an occasional hint of looming nightmare (that ultimately dissolves) ambient and drone is here perfected like never before on his previous works.

    Gonna end here before I add another 38 albums right here n now ;)

    Tz

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  19. Saw Less Bells open for Bryan Macbride/Grouper a few weeks ago in a church down here in Downtown LA. Pretty damn impressive live. One dude sitting at a desk manning a table full of synths and samplers, one woman on cello I think, another playing accordion. Both doing vocals. Really beautiful performance.

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  20. I couldn't agree more. It is hard to put it into words, but you did a great job.
    It is fascinating how their voices are hidden sometimes, Quorum is one of the best openers I've ever heard, it sets the tone, it made me feel so open and scared at the same time.
    Thanks for the list and the music.

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  21. Fantastic list. 1/3 I knew...the rest require me to do some crate digging.

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